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Tuesday, 26 November 2019
Page: 5965

Mr JOYCE (New England) (19:00): I rise tonight to talk on an issue that I don't believe is going to get me many friends, but it's incredibly important. The issue is that we have to believe in our sovereignty as a nation. We have to believe in it in our philosophical approach, in our ethical approach and in our legal approach. We have to believe in our sovereignty when it comes to who owns what in our land. We have to believe in our sovereignty when it comes to defending our land. And we have to believe in our sovereignty when it comes to the rule of law in our land.

On the issue of Mr Julian Assange, I do not give any endorsement of his character whatsoever, but I do hold in great respect the legal principle of jurisprudence for this nation. It is a reflection of what we are as a nation. It is a reflection of our sovereignty. Mr Assange never committed a crime whilst in the United States. In fact, you might go so far as to say that Robert Mueller, in his investigations, has never called for an indictment of Mr Assange. It has been said, by the United States, that they wish to have Mr Assange convicted of espionage. But Mr Assange was in Australia; he was certainly not in the United States.

If we create a precedent in this nation where a third party, a third nation, can say, 'We believe you've committed a crime in our country, even though you were never here, and Australia has to extradite you to our country to face those charges,' that is an appalling precedent. What happens when the autocracy of China says, 'We believe someone in Australia has committed a crime, the way we see it in China; therefore, you must extradite that person to China to face charges.' It is a ridiculous precedent.

In 2010, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard wanted to take away Mr Assange's passport and charge him with a crime. The problem was, he hadn't committed a crime—not in Australia. And this process goes on. Once more, I don't think I'd even like the guy if I met him. I look at him from a distance and there's not much I like about him at all. But that's not the issue. Law is not just there for the people we like. Law is not just there for the issues we think are conducive to our view of the world. Law is there as a constant, as a permanent, as a compass. It's a compass so that we can understand what the sovereignty of our nation means to us on a personal level.

Remember, Mr Assange never broke or hacked into any computers. That was done by a person who was at the time a private in the army, whose name at the time was Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning. Bradley Manning is now a free person. Bradley Manning was given a pardon by President Obama. Bradley Manning is now walking the streets as Chelsea Manning. Yet we are sitting back contemplating or being silent in a process that might involve the extradition, from the United Kingdom to the United States, of an Australian citizen for a crime that has been alleged, or has been charged, or the process has started, in a third country, the United States of America.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): Order! Unfortunately, we don't have a quorum. Proceedings are suspended until we have a quorum.

Proceedings suspended from 19 : 05 to 19 : 08

(Quorum formed)

Mr JOYCE: If Mr Assange committed a crime by reason of reporting what was given to him by Mr Manning, then surely everybody who reported what was obviously printed by Mr Assange also committed a crime. Therefore, every newspaper and every editor in this nation has committed a crime. Maybe they should all be deported to the United States to face the music there!

I have to say that hypocrisy reigns supreme when people from the fourth estate, who have campaigned about protection of journalism, seem, in many instances, to have lost their tongues on this issue. Whether it's The Australian or The Age or The Sydney Morning Herald or the ABC or Channel Nine or Channel Seven or The Guardian—whoever it is—if they have reported on information that was taken by Mr Manning in the United States and then subsequently reported on WikiLeaks, which has an involvement and of which Mr Assange was a co-founder, then surely all those people in that train of printing things are now up for the same charge.

The only way that you can stand by this is to go back to core principles. If you believe that we are a nation that is good enough to have a process of law that has been tested by time which reflects our sovereignty, which reflects the nature and the tenor—almost the sanctity—of what a nation is, and if we are saying, 'We are not the United States of America and we are not China; we are Australia,' then you have to say that we must stand by our own process of law and not abscond from it from time to time at the behest of what is a strong and powerful ally but is not us. The United States of America knows it's a liberal democracy and that it must stand behind the principle of law. There are certain processes in law—such as habeas corpus—which you cannot just arbitrarily dismiss. I say once more that I do not give any endorsement to the character of Mr Assange in any way, shape or form, but I do give an endorsement to the process of law in this nation. And in the past, much to people's disgust—and, people said, to my disgrace—I stood by and tried to make sure that David Hicks—

Mr BURKE: I move:

That the member be no longer heard.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): I put the question that the member be no longer heard. All those of that opinion, say aye. To the contrary, no. I think the noes have it.

An honourable member: The ayes have it.

An honourable member: The noes have it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It will be reported back to the chamber as an unresolved question. There being no further grievances, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:11